The Mountain Bike Life

If you ride your bike on a regular basis over the course of several years of ownership, it is almost inevitable that your favorite ride is not going to stay in the pristine condition that you bought it in. Scratches seem to naturally accumulate, even if you try as hard as you might to stand your bike up out of harm’s way, clean it after every ride, and you ride within your limits enough to avoid crashing. Half the scuffs that my bikes earn are honestly from putting them on bike racks, even nice racks, alongside other bikes.

Horrible scratches on my XC bike incurred in shipping


So what can be done to prevent the usual scuffs, scratches, dings, and dents from covering our favorite machines? I think the best solution, is honestly to ride less. Heck, don’t even ride at all. Having your bike turn into a garage queen is the only way that you can completely ensure that your bike stays unscathed.

My favorite bottle of $1 “touch-up paint”

If you can somehow come to terms with the fact that your bike is not going to retain its out-of-the-box luster through the duration of its use, a question that I don’t think a lot of us ask is what can we do after we get that massive scratch on our bike?

One of my personal favorite solutions, is one that will have your toolboxes losing a bit of machismo if you decide to go through with it. For scratches of various sizes on fairly simple, solid color frames, I’ve found that nail polish works exceptionally well at covering up scratches. It’s touch-up paint that’s super affordable, comes in a million different colors that are easy to match to almost any frame, and the glossy properties of nail polish often seem to match that of a frame’s stock powdercoat without being too blatant.

Additionally, if you’re looking to spot touch-up paint your bike, your local bike shop will often carry touch-up paint that is from the bike brands that they carry. For instance, a shop I used to work at in town carried multiple colors that were issued to them from Specialized, though they’re pretty hard to order individually. Specialized, as stated on their website, has noted that they’re pretty much done with selling touch-up paint, and even recommend my aforementioned solution. If you’re dead-set on getting proprietary touch-up paint, definitely check your LBS first. Automotive touch-up paint is also a possible option, but it’d going to be several times more expensive than a bottle of nail polish.

“Jamaica” bike I helped my friend spraypaint

So what happens if your bike is scratched to oblivion? What if touch-up paint is not a solution, as you’ve got a raw frame, or matte paint job? I feel like one thing that many riders don’t consider is that the color of the bike you ride is not at all a static thing. From what I’ve found, you can often get your whole bike painted for less than the price of a carbon handlebar.

If you are interested in getting your bike completely re-painted, you are going to first have to do two things; completely strip EVERYTHING off of the frame, down to the headset and bottom bracket cups, and you are going to have to find a way to strip the paint off. If you’ve got no experience with either of the two, you can easily bring your bike into your LBS which should be more than happy to dis-assemble and re-assemble your bike for around $150 or less, and almost any place that you can bring your bike to have painted will be capable of removing its stock paint.

Once you’ve got a bare frame, you’ve got a few options. Firstly, you can try your hand at rattle-can spray painting, which will likely be the least expensive, but I highly recommend against it. Rattle-can jobs almost never end up turning out great, and their durability doesn’t quite stand up to other methods of painting, even when clear-coated properly.

Zebra freeride bike my airbrush artist painted (frame/ fork)

Another option I’ve recently discovered is airbrushing. If you live in any remotely metropolitan area, there are likely artists who advertise their services online, and will airbrush just about anything you ask them to. They will also often post some of their past work, so you can see what they’re fully capable of producing, which is nice to see before you hand them over your trusty steed. In my experience, airbrush artists will also be happy to automotive clear-coat your work, which stands up just as well as any other professional coat. If you also want custom work and/ or detailing, in my opinion airbrushing really is the only way to go, The best way to approach an airbrush artist is to let them know exactly what you want out of a paint job, which pieces are going to be painted, and see if they can give you a quote, time and money-wise.

Lastly, the most common method of bike painting that I’ve seen, is powder coating. Once again, if you live in any kind of urban area, you’ll likely have some kind of power coating business in town that will be happy to paint your frame in a variety of colors that they’ve got in stock, or can order. Powder coating is done at a very high temperature, however, so if you’ve got a carbon fiber frame, this is unfortunately not an option for you.  

Girlfriend’s ’85 Trek 500 I had powdercoated

As you can see in the photos provided, I’ve had experience with all three of the aforementioned painting methods. As far as quality is concerned, the powder coating job and air-brushing jobs I personally had done were almost completely at the same par, and a high one at that. However, the detail of the custom the airbrush job that I got was completely unparalleled, the airbrush artist that I dealt with turned out to be the nicest guy ever, compared to the ‘let me take your money and get the &%#$ out’ vibe I got from the powder coating place. Also, my airbrushing experience turned out to be best for my budget, so naturally I’d go airbrush again, even if I was just getting a solid color.

Just remember; even the worst aesthetic damage to your bike can always be fixed, and your bike’s paint can always be changed. Hope this gives y’all some insight, and I wish I’d known all of this ages ago!

-KN

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Kevin Neidorf

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11872806449681942214 Shannon Whissell

    WOAH! Where do you get nail polish for $1? ;-)